12 February 2008

Bridging the digital divide

From what I’ve read in the Indian media, Sri Dhirubhai Ambani (the late don of the Reliance Group) had said that, with mobilephones, the whole world is in your hands. In fact, at the moment, there’s a Reliance Communications mobile blog ad campaign running which is using these very words of Sri Dhirubhai Ambani as its theme.

To tell you the truth, I do believe that, with 2 billion mobilephone users around the world (that’s double the number of Internet users), the mobilephone will most likely put the power in the users’ hands. Mobilephone users will be able to connect to and reach anyone almost anywhere. Which means, the mobile technology will be able to breakthrough all political, economic, social and cultural barriers to bridge the digital divide that exists with telephones (landlines), computers and the Internet.

To this end, the GSM Association (the global association of GSM mobile technology companies and brands, based in London) is doing everything possible to support the bridging of the digital divide. According to the GSM Association (and I quote from their website),

“The GSMA believe that the promotion of open, competitive market conditions is fundamental to extending the benefits of mobile communications to all, from the most developed Western European markets to remote areas in developing countries. Mobile has a critical role to play in improving health, wealth, education and social mobility.

To ensure that the benefits of mobile communications are understood and available to everyone who needs them, the GSM Association has developed an integrated programme aimed at better identifying the value of mobile communications. As part of its wider ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ initiative, the GSMA is working to tackle the cost barriers to ownership and address the economic and social benefits related to mobile.

Its work in this area falls into two categories:

The Total Cost of Ownership and Economic & Social Benefits. The ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ takes a 360 degree view of the mobile communications environment. This includes examining how regulation and tax affect the take-up of mobile phones. It also includes work on delivering a lower cost handset to consumers; which is part of the Emerging market handset programme.

The second area in which the GSMA seeks to address the digital divide is in the area of the ‘Economic and Social Benefits of Mobile Communications’. This looks at the role of micro-payments, the function that a mobile phone plays in facilitating disaster relief, relevant studies and the GSMA’s Development Fund.”

In fact, the GSMA’s commitment goes as far as instituting a ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ category in the annual Global Mobile Awards which recognises achievements in the global GSM mobile technology field.

[Citation: GSM Association website, Bridging the Digital Divide. Global Mobile Awards website, Category 5, Bridging the Digital Divide.]

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